Center Prodh

The Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center

Israel Arzate Meléndez

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In Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua state, the militarization of public security has led to a clear increase in human rights violations such as arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions, torture, arraigo (prolonged detention without charge), and fabrication of false criminal charges. This State-sponsored violence affects above all the poorest and most vulnerable social sectors.

Israel Arzate Meléndez is an example of the types of arbitrary and illegal acts carried out by State actors against marginalized social groups, whose members are at constant risk of being detained, charged, and sentenced for crimes they did not commit. In the case of Israel, his only crime was being a person of low income; yet this was more than enough for soldiers, prosecutors, and the criminal justice system to take advantage of him, arbitrarily detaining him as a scapegoat for an unsolved crime. His case is only one of many others; a growing number have made headlines, but many victims of similar abuses are justifiably afraid to speak out.

In states such as Chihuahua, where the reformed criminal justice system is in place (that is, an adversarial system based on oral trials), continuing human rights violations such as torture take on an even graver significance because they demonstrate that the new justice system, due to be implemented throughout the country in the coming years, does not have adequate protection mechanisms against such abuses. So far, the implementation of the new system has not succeeded in overcoming the vices of the inquisitorial system; states such as Chihuahua also thwart the new system’s object and purposes through regressive measures such as legislative counter-reforms. As a result, Israel’s case shows the flaws of a justice system that permits the fabrication of false criminal charges through torture, the use of illicit evidence, and the use of show trials in crimes of high social impact. These situations jeopardize due process, judicial impartiality, and access to a fair trial.

Israel regained his freedom in 2013 through a favorable Supreme Court decision that confirmed that there was no evidence against him other than a (false) confession obtained under coercion in a military base.

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